Atheists have a marketing problem. In a world where religion has a practically infinite social inertia the idea that there isn't a god and that we are the masters of our own destiny is not just a hard sell, it's inconceivable for many. Richard Dawkins and others have started marketing campaigns to introduce this novel idea to those who would not otherwise think about it. Are these campaigns working? That is anyone's guess at this point.

SETH GODIN is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change (taken from his blog). He has written books and given talks, like this TED talk, which explain why some ideas spread more efficiently than others. He states that "ideas that spread, win." This is an obvious truth. It is also an obvious truth that the world has invented innumerable religions but the dominant ones that we are left with today are successful because they were the best at spreading. Why these religions are so well adapted for spreading has been much discussed elsewhere. What we need to do, if we have an idea that we want to spread, is identify how to market our idea so that it becomes as viral as the religions we wish it to replace. We must also recognize that if it isn't spreading then perhaps the problem is not the audience but the idea.

Seth argues that today there are so many ideas and products being marketed that people have learned how to ignore them. The things which get noticed are not necessarily the best but they are the ones that are remarkable, that stand out. Seth also argues that marketing to the masses is alright if you have an enormous budget but this is a mistake because that is the market which is best at ignoring your message. The best audience to market to, he argues, is the small group of people that are passionate about the subject because they will spread your idea themselves.

Let's consider what Seth Godin would do. How would he market atheism if he wanted to promote that change? Is atheism even a marketable idea? If not, what is? That is a much discussed subject in the context of identifying what we, as individuals, stand for. I think that it needs to be identified not simply for self identity but, more importantly, for marketing.

Let's also consider advertising strategies. Absolutely anyone can market an idea today, if they are clever. Setting up a website is trivial. Viral "word of mouth" marketing gets you your audience. The trick is to create a site that is remarkable to passionate people. Bill-boards are nice but they are expensive. Are there other options?

Let's brainstorm. How can we market our message in a better way? What is the message we need to promote to accomplish our goal?

Tags: Seth Godin, advertising, marketing, strategy

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And you are free not to embrace it. Incidentally not everyone can go to a university their entire life. Most people say they only go to church for the community and secular aspects it provides. Hence those conventions are perfectly viable on their own. Atheism is meaningless, I agree, but community support of humane values is not. You are free not to go, but you undersell the relevancy of things like Ethical Societies. I don't see why they shouldn't continue indefinitely beyond the subjective reactionary status of atheism vs. religion.
"it would be unhelpful to the cause of thwarting religion if we simply copied religious practices sans god"

Right. What if that just repeated everything? The mindlessness of the church is what makes the people who belong to it sheep. If we did the same thing we'd literally just become another religion.Atheism is about waking people up and taking them to a higher plane. Its about disrupting the monotony and denial.
Become an atheist, sleep in on Sunday.
And why bother to get dressed until Monday.

What's not to like?

PS on the church thing, is there literally no groups outside of churches in the US. Why not join an orchestra or a political party?
So you're saying that people who go to Ethical Societies aren't politically affiliated or musically inclined? It's called doing both.

I can understand wanting to sleep in on Sundays. The atheist church thing isn't for everyone and it's certainly not obligatory, but it's also not a bad idea either. So there's no need to portray it like it is just because you don't want to go.
Some people had valid critiques and concerns about the idea of an "atheist church". There is always a need to question and be skeptical of ideas, and not just blindly accept them out of politeness or whatever. I didnt see anyone here "portraying" anything like it was bad just because they didnt want to participate, rather what I saw were concerns and valid criticisms of the idea. Interesting you are using this means to defend "atheist church "that Ive seen so many others use to defend regular church. No one is forcing me to go to those churches either, but I still have valid criticisms for them.
I didn't say bad, I said interesting ;)
So atheistic church is used to wean people off of traditional church? Like a nicorette?LOL!
There is such a thing as bogus and factually inaccurate criticisms that are completely off base. I see nothing in this thread that holds up to re-scrutiny. I've found that most atheists in our meetup group that abhor Ethical Society's do so on an arational aversion to anything that seems religious or uses religious conventions. And pretty much everything I've seen here is the same stereotypical objections that just don't square with the reality. So feel free to speak up, but I feel just as free. :D
Yes Ben. Of course you are completely right. However, the impression I am getting is that social support networks have been monopolised in the US to a far greater extent then in the UK and that perhaps this is factor in wanting expressly atheist alternatives to church.
I think you have touched on the crux of your own challenge. Atheism is not a marketable commodity like religion. This is because people who have been raised with pre-packaged belief systems see it as taking something away from them that is comforting (their blind faith) rather than giving them something far more valuable in return (freedom of thought and reason). It takes more inner strength to traverse life without religion than with it - and you want to kick the crutches out from under these poor emotional cripples. I suspect there are many that are not strong enough to stand without religious crutches.
What my original post said.

"In a world where religion has a practically infinite social inertia the idea that there isn't a god and that we are the masters of our own destiny is not just a hard sell, it's inconceivable for many."

This is a marketable idea, in my opinion. It is successfully being marketed by Richard Dawkins and others. Is it an idea which can supplant religion? Of course not. It is an idea which may cause the open-minded to reconsider their preconceptions but will not be palatable to everyone.

"What we need to do, if we have an idea that we want to spread, is identify how to market our idea so that it becomes as viral as the religions we wish it to replace. We must also recognize that if it isn't spreading then perhaps the problem is not the audience but the idea."

If you have a better message to promote please tell us what it is.
You generally have to "market" things that are lies or half truths, but things that are self evident dont require much marketing, if any at all. They just spread on their own.

My point has been we dont need to promote atheism as a message per se, we just need to work to remove barriers to that knowledge by calling out liars, being vocal skeptics, and being open to learning new things, teaching and empowering others whenever we have the opportunity.

I didnt become an atheist because of some book, some ad, or some sermon. I simply, over time, asked questions, learned and became more knowledgeable, and came to atheism all on my own. No one "convinced me" or "sold me on the idea". I bet a lot of people here are in the same or a similar boat.

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